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It seems that filming The Running Man (1963), a tale of insurance fraud based on Shelley Smith's novel The Ballad of the Running Man, was not a happy experience for anyone involved. Director Carol Reed had recently been fired from Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), and although those who worked on the film thought it unfair and blamed Marlon Brando, the experience had shaken Reed's confidence badly.
Star Laurence Harvey was generally unhappy about the state of his career and the type of projects he felt forced to do. As he wrote to his parents during the shooting of The Running Man, "As one continues to work in this profession one finds it increasingly difficult as the whole economy and structure of the motion picture has, and is continually changing. The people who run the companies today are not longer interested in films, but only in greed, lining their pockets and destroying what was once a great field of entertainment and sometimes even an art. In order to survive one had to be continually fighting their negativity and stupidity. Where one time we could spend all our efforts and energies on performance, we now have to watch every other aspect of the business. After all these years of intensive hard work and concentrated labors, I find myself no better off financially than I was ten or fifteen years ago, and one wonders whether it's all worth it. Unfortunately I am stuck with this business and know no other, so am forced to continue in this rat race hoping for survival."
Harvey's spending habits and the high tax rate in Britain made it necessary for him to stay out of England, Scotland and Wales. As Nicholas Wapshott wrote in his book Carol Reed: A Biography, "[Harvey] therefore placed in his contract a clause which said that all filming should take place outside Britain. At first Reed had planned to begin shooting in Barcelona, Spain, then work up toward the mountains of Andorra, but he switched to taking the company south, with the film's grand finale a spectacular crash into the Rock of Gibraltar, not only a recognizable location but, to fit in with the ironies of the plot, the symbol of the Prudential Insurance company. Reed took the cast and crew off for a ten-week location schedule in Mlaga, Algeciras, San Roque and La Lnea on the Costa del Sol. There were a few distractions from the work. Harvey thought that the film was a nonstarter, Lee Remick remained icy throughout and only Alan Bates emerges with credit. The plot twisted and turned, but Reed found few ways of heightening the tension. There was a painful reminder of his lost ability to keep an audience on edge when an open-air showing of Odd Man Out (1947) was screened in his honor at the bullring at San Roque." Remick's iciness was attributed to her dislike of Harvey, who was known for his abrasive personality.
Friction between cast members was only one of the troubles: in September 1962 one of the stunt pilots and a cameraman were seriously injured when they crashed into the ocean in Gibraltar while filming. When production was moved to Ardmore Studios in Bray, Ireland, the temperature change from sunny Gibraltar and Spain caused several of the cast and crew to get sick. As Harvey wrote to his parents, "every member of the cast and crew seemed to have come down with a bad cold and sinus trouble, but the principal sufferer is me."
Reed, meanwhile, was seriously overweight and felt ill during most of the production. Nicholas Wapshott wrote that "[Reed] was losing his hearing and his concentration...[He] hugged the security of an old working friendship by once again joining forces with his favorite cinematographer, Robert Krasker, and his old editor, Bert Bates...During the period of editing, Bates found Reed's dithering increasingly irritating and attempted to force him to be decisive. What had previously been a genuine appeal for a second opinion had become a fundamental lack of confidence in his own decisions. Bates would say to him, 'Well, I haven't got all day. I've got some roses to prune,' and would leave the cutting room to tend his rose garden. Reed was still paying the terrible toll brought on by Brando's humiliation of him during Mutiny. The Running Man was universally dismissed by the critics when it was released in London in August 1963. The [London] Times found the whole thing rather old-fashioned and obvious. It was universally thought that Reed was in terminal decline. In France the decline was stressed by the insensitivity of a switch in the film's title to Le Deuxieme Homme."
Reed's greatest film was, arguably, The Third Man (1949). The translation of the French title for The Running Man is "The Second Man."
Producer/Director: Carol Reed
Screenplay: John Mortimer
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Art Direction: John Stoll
Music: William Alwyn
Film Editing: Bert Bates
Cast: Laurence Harvey (Rex Black), Lee Remick (Stella Black), Alan Bates (Stephen Maddox), Felix Aylmer (Parson), Eleanor Summerfield (Hilda Tanner), Fernando Rey (Police Official).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Carol Reed: A Biography by Nicholas Wapshott, 1994
Reach for the Top: The Turbulent Life of Laurence Harvey, by Anne Sinai
The Internet Movie Database